May 10th, 2008
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I'm sorry to wake you all so early on a Saturday. I'm a morning person whether I like it or not. But I do appreciate you all checking this out.
Owning a house is a strange thing. A house that you buy, I mean. If you have a house built, normally the construction crews will turn up enough soil in the area that you'll find pretty much anything you're going to find before you settle in. Clean earth remains. But not if you just move in to someone else's house after they've been there for years, and some other family for years before them, etc. Who knows what's been going on on that land?
I need your help.
We've had this house for just over half a year and I've spent much of that time pulling up the odd cement paving stone, slate slab, or railroad tie that some iteration of previous owner saw fit to sink into the earth here over the previous decades of this house's 35-40 year existence. That's fine. I just chalked it up to both organizing their messes and, hey, free paving material. But this morning I went out to remove the stump of a dead bush around which our German Shepherd had constantly been tangling her chain. Early on a Saturday morning, Halloween themed coffee mug in one hand, shovel and pickaxe in the other.
Forty-five minutes later I had the stump out and the paving stones reset, as you can see in the above picture, and had been carrying shovels-full of dirt back to fill in the hole. I stopped as a bare patch of earth caught my eye. It's probably another paving stone, one of literally dozens I've pulled from seemingly random spots in the half acre property. I drop the shovel on it to make sure, because it looks a little off. Shovel sinks in - it's just dirt. But underneath it is solid. Okay, so there's a stone underneath anyway.
I start digging.
Soon I realize it's not a simple concrete paver. It looks almost like brick. Then like a brick wall. What's that doing here? I trace it across a foot, discovering a pattern. It looks like "NNNNNN" and I think nothing of it, just wondering what on earth the previous owners were thinking. Suddenly I realize it's not an abstract pattern. They're letters.
It's a man's name.
Oh please tell me there isn't a casket running up under the hedgerow, next to the deck, next to the great room of my house. I picture a silent Puritan funeral, heavy black robes, and a guy with a concrete mixer. Our house was the first house on this entire tract of land...but it's only 35ish years old.
There's only one thing to do, and that's keep digging. I look around at the neighbors' houses: silence. I look back at my Halloween coffee mug and think of Poltergeist. Why didn't I grab the coffee mug I had taken from my college cafeteria? Why'd it have to be the Halloween one? Two men can keep a secret, if one of them's dead. But when someone else comes along and starts to uncover the secret, well, this is where movies start.
I find an edge and trace it around with the shovel. It's no comfort at all to find "TONY" so I keep going. Curiousity is getting the better of me, but darnit, it's my property. If this place has dead bodies, wasn't that supposed to be in the paperwork I signed somewhere? I definitely don't remember a clause anywhere reading "warning: here be corpses."
Fortunately, I think, I traced the whole surface of the thing. Definitely not adult human sarcophagus size. It's 30.5" x 16". Say 2.5'x 1.5', give or take. Please also tell me this isn't a casket for an infant. Really, seriously - I don't want that to have happened on my land! I start thinking that I have no idea how far down it goes. Visions of corpses buried standing up force themselves quite unwelcome into my head and I begin to think of Dante's Inferno - people buried upside down, their feet on fire, stacked on top of one another. Are these the names of four people buried here, stacked? Of course not. Still, unwelcome thoughts, Carl. Break out the broom and clean it up a little.
On closer inspection, the names are ANTHONY, TONY, MORRIS, and FLUFF/COOMP (not coopir, as the picture states). Well, it's unlikely that it's a tomb for an infant. You wouldn't put FLUFF on that. Is it a time capsule? I start to get excited. Maybe it's a time capsule. I really hope it's a time capsule.
The inset area is a little lower than the ridge, and it looks like there's two bolts in it that were bent over. Maybe to lift or lower the "casket" lid? What's that extra impression, though? Did there used to be a plaque there? It's about the size of a brick. "We love you Grandpa Coomp, please don't come back as a zombie. Here are two bolts to play with. Love, Anthony, Tony, and Morris"
By now my hands are shaking. I know what you're thinking, but give me a break. Strong coffee on an empty stomach, a deserted early morning of shoveling, uncovering a mystery when I was just supposed to be doing yardwork. What's going on here?
That, dear friends, is why I need your help.
Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you think it is. And should I keep digging - or should I respect whatever it is and cover it back up? Is it some traditional architectural or property marker that you know about that I've never heard of? Is it obviously some grave site? Should I get it out of there or just bury it back over? It's huge, I'm sure, but it's close to the surface and it's right next to my house. Is it a time capsule? I really hope it's a time capsule.
So, email me your thoughts, or join the forum and post them there. I'll wait a little while to see what you think.In the mean time, I went back to filling up the hole of the roots I just dug out. I also want to wait until my wife is awake to see what she thinks.
Little did I know, she was already awake...